What is Public Safety Realignment?
Realignment is the shifting of thousands of inmates from state prison to county jails. Approved by legislative Democrats and signed by Governor Brown, realignment makes fundamental changes to our prison system and takes effect on October 1, 2011.
The Governor claims that shifting inmates to the counties will save money and relieve prison overcrowding by returning "lower-level" offenders to local authorities who can manage them in "smarter" ways.
However, Assembly Republicans fought hard against the Governor's flawed plan because realignment essentially means the early release of some very dangerous individuals. In reality, realignment is a scheme for the state to transfer some of its budget problems to cash-strapped counties and to release prisoners early without getting its hands dirty.
In total, realignment combined with a court-ordered population prison reduction, will result in 52,000 offenders being shifted from state prison to local jails by 2013-14. Although there is a federal court order to require the state to reduce the prison population by 33,000 prisoners, the Governor's scheme will increase the target population by over 40%.
Two-thirds of California's 58 counties are already under some form of mandated early release. Currently, 20 counties have to comply with maximum population capacity limits enforced by court order, while another 12 counties have self-imposed population caps to avoid lawsuits.
Given that the state will only be providing funding to house up to 10,000 more prisoners, it is likely that many state felons will be granted early release instead of being housed in county jails. The early release of these felons will put innocent Californians at greater risk of becoming crime victims.
In addition, the Governor only gives one year of guaranteed funding for realignment, which is a permanent program. There is no guarantee that the Governor and Legislature will provide funding for future years, which could lead to the early release of more inmates.
Realignment is unnecessary. There are other ways to reform the prison system without endangering public safety. Assembly Republicans will continue to fight for fiscally responsible reforms to reform the Department of Corrections and reduce wasteful prison spending. No family should suffer because of the Governor's flawed plan.
Crime Rates Before and After Realignment
Despite the Governor's assurances, it is very possible that crime in California will increase as a result of realignment.
According to the latest information from the Attorney General's Office, the crime rate has decreased in every offense category between 2009 and 2010. This crime drop occurred despite a struggling economy and difficult budget times for most communities. Click here to view the Attorney General's report.
Of course, no one knows what the full impact of realignment will ultimately be on crime, but we can use the Attorney General's report as a baseline to compare crime rates in the coming years. Assembly Republicans sincerely hope that crime will continue to drop, but with 52,000 offenders being shifted from state prison to local jails by 2013-14, it will be very difficult to realize even lower crime rates in the future.
Realignment Bills and Votes
In early 2011, the Legislature passed and Governor Brown signed Assembly Bills 109 and 117 that made realignment possible. Both bills passed with only Democrats voting in favor. Also enacted were AB 111, AB 94, AB 118, ABx 17 and Senate Bills 89 and 87 to provide funding to counties for realignment. Click on the bill links above to see how your representative voted on each bill.
May 3, 2007 - Governor Schwarzenegger signs AB 900, which addresses prison overcrowding without resorting to the realignment of prisoners. However, Governor Brown's realignment plan would instead use AB 900 money to pay counties to house inmates who would otherwise serve in state prison.
January 3, 2011 - Jerry Brown returns to the Governor's office for his third term.
May 23, 2011 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules that California's prisons cannot imprison more than 109,805 inmates at any time. This means the state will have no choice but to reduce the current inmate population by 33,630. However, Governor Brown's realignment plan would make the current situation worse by shifting an additional 19,000 inmates into our communities. This goes beyond what the Supreme Court requires.
April 5, 2011 - Governor Brown signs AB 109 which makes realignment possible.
June 30, 2011 - The Governor signs AB 117 which attempts to correct "errors" in the original realignment bill, AB 109.
September 9, 2011 - The California Department of Justice releases the 2010 "Crime in California" report, which shows the lowest crimes rates in a long time.
October 1, 2011 - Realignment begins.